As Davey threw himself into her arms, Abby was so focussed on catching him that it took a few seconds for his words to really register: When they did, she froze mid-hug and couldn't quite believe what she'd heard. "W...What?" she finally managed to stutter. "Daddy and Boss are doing what?"
"They're making a baby! In the kitchen!" Davey repeated sounding breathless. He wriggled and squirmed until Abby put him down and then reached out to grab her hand. "C'mon we're gonna miss it!"
"Miss what?" McGee asked as he and Ducky arrived with the bags.
"I'm not really sure, but I can't wait to find out!" Abby replied with a grin. Davey was obviously confused about something but that didn't stop her fertile imagination from dreaming up some very interesting scenarios. Allowing herself to be pulled along, she decided Gibbs and Tony were in for some serious teasing.
Once they arrived in the kitchen, she greeted both men with a mischievous smile. "Davey says you two are making a baby in here and he's invited us to watch," she announced waggling her eyebrows suggestively. "When does the fun begin?"
Her words had the desired effect and the shocked reactions of the assembled group had Abby laughing in delight.
Tony practically choked on a mouthful of coffee and quickly moved his hand in front of his mouth to stop it from spraying all over the floor: Trust Abby to find a way to take him from feeling half asleep to fully awake in a matter of seconds!
"Daddy, is something wrong with your drink?" Davey asked with an endearing look of concern on his face.
Tony coughed a couple of times to clear his throat. "Um...no, no it's fine. It just went down the wrong way, that's all," he croaked. "Davey, what have you been telling Abby?"
"That you're gonna make a baby with Boss," the little boy replied, looking a little puzzled at all the fuss.
"A baby, huh? What makes you think that?" Gibbs asked evenly, trying his best to keep his expression neutral even though his eyes were sparkling with amusement.
"'Cause Grampa Jack got you juice an' eggs," Davey explained, pointing at the bottle of OJ and carton of eggs sitting on the counter top.
"Ah, so that's it," Ducky observed with a slight smile as realisation dawned. "It would seem our little talk at the hospital wasn't quite as successful as I'd hoped." He sat down and pulled Davey onto his lap, giving him a gentle hug. "You need special eggs and juice to make babies, young man, not the kind you can just go out and buy in a store like your grandfather's."
"Oh," Davey huffed with a disappointed little frown on his face. "Do we have to get them at the mall?"
Tony almost choked on his coffee again and ruthlessly suppressed the urge to laugh as Ducky just shook his head solemnly.
"Do you know what? They're so special you can't even buy them at the mall!" he explained with a tone of awe in his voice. He jiggled his knee and tickled Davey under the chin. "But that's a story for another time, alright? For now, I think we should concentrate on having fun and getting to know you better because babies are an awful lot of work. Did you know they spend most of the time sleeping and eating and crying..."
"And peeing and pooping!" Davey supplied with a giggle.
"Why that's right young man, and that means changing lots and lots of diapers every day - which isn't very pleasant," Ducky confided, hoping that would bring an end to the discussion.
Unfortunately Davey didn't seem too convinced and the cute little frown reappeared on his face as he looked over at Tony. "But Shrek liked it and he had three babies, didn't he Daddy?"
So it wasn't just Ducky's birds and the bees talk that had brought on Davey's enthusiasm for babies, Tony thought as he shared a knowing smile with Gibbs: They'd watched the third Shrek movie a few days earlier and Davey had loved it. He plucked the little boy from Ducky's lap and settled him on his own. "Well that's because ogres live in oozy, slimy swamps and drink slug juice and think icky smells are really nice," he explained. "Personally, I think diapers are sti-i-i-inky!" he said, pinching his nose and pulling a funny face that had Davey giggling again.
Gibbs smiled and ruffled the little boy's hair. "I gotta say, I'm with your dad on that one, kiddo. What do you think?"
"Ah-huh, me too!" Davey agreed without hesitation and just like that, it seemed the matter was settled. He looked up at Ducky and asked, "Do you wanna see my jungle gym? It's awesome!"
"Well now, that's a much better idea!" Ducky said enthusiastically, sharing a relieved smile with the others as he allowed Davey to lead him away.
Abby waited until they were out of earshot then came to stand next to Tony, giving him a searching look. "What happened? You looked fine when we skyped yesterday and now you're back to looking all scrinched up and worn out," she scolded.
"Hey, it's not my fault. Someone blabbed about coming to visit and got Davey so hyped up he spent most of the night bobbing up and down like an escapee from a Whac-a-mole game," Tony replied moodily, rubbing at his tired eyes.
"Aw, I'm sorry, I didn't think," Abby apologised, slipping her arm around his shoulder. "He just looked so sad when I said we had to sign off and I thought if he knew we were coming to visit, it would cheer him up – and me too, I guess," she admitted moving in front of Tony to get a proper hug. "I've really missed you guys."
"We've been in touch every day, Abs," Tony pointed out with a weary sigh as he returned the hug.
"It's not the same as having you there in person!" Abby insisted, pulling back to look between Tony and Gibbs. "It's like there's this huge gaping hole where you guys should be and it won't be filled until you get home."
"We've missed you too," Gibbs assured her, walking over to claim a hug of his own just as his cell phone began to ring. He frowned as he looked down at the name on the display. "It's Fornell," he muttered then flipped the phone open and headed out of the kitchen to take the call.
Tony watched him go, his stomach flip-flopping unhappily: A phone call from the FBI on a Saturday morning could only mean one thing; trouble. However, before he could voice his concerns, the house phone began to ring too.
As Abby and McGee looked on, Tony reached over and picked up the receiver and listened intently before saying, "Thanks Jack. I need you to stay where you are until we find out what's going on, okay?" There was a slight pause as he listened to Jack's answer and then he added, "Yeah, I promise we'll be careful," before ending the call. He replaced the receiver and turned to the others, his expression serious.
"Jack says there's an unfamiliar car heading through town. He thinks there's only one occupant and it may be nothing but we need to get Davey and Ducky inside, now."
McGee nodded and was about to leave the room when Gibbs returned.
"Stand down, McGee, it's only Fornell. He was calling to let us know he's on his way."
"Wow, that was unusually thoughtful of him," Tony snarked, trying to hide his worry.
"Hey, only an idiot would come unannounced with an ex-sniper in the house, right?" McGee pointed out, trying to lighten the mood. "Must mean he left Sacks behind this time."
"Yup, he's alone," Gibbs confirmed, allowing himself a half smile at McGee's comment. "Says he's got news for us."
Tony's stomach lurched again and his growing unease shifted up a gear: Why would Fornell travel all that way to see them - and on a weekend too? God, what if they really had brought trouble to Stillwater? Was Jack more exposed out there at the community centre?
Suddenly the comforting weight of Gibbs' hand settled on the back of Tony's neck and broke the younger man from his dark thoughts.
"Relax, Tony. Fornell would've brought backup if there was an active threat."
Tony looked up to see Gibbs staring at him reassuringly and he offered a watery smile in return. "Yeah, I guess you're right, but I am so ready for all this to be over," he admitted quietly.
In the time it took for Fornell to arrive, Abby whisked Davey off to his bedroom to keep him entertained and the others relocated to the living room. Five minutes later McGee ushered their guest into the house and they went to sit by the fire.
"Nice place, Jethro," Fornell said appreciatively looking around the room. "I gotta say, I was expecting to find you holed up in an old shack out in the middle of nowhere."
Gibbs snorted in feigned disgust. "You should get out of the city more often, Tobias. Even the boondocks have indoor plumbing and electricity these days."
Fornell gave a hearty laugh and settled back on the sofa as Ducky handed him a cup of coffee.
"So, what brings you all the way out here?" Tony asked, trying to sound nonchalant and not quite carrying it off.
"Don't worry, DiNozzo, it's nothing bad," Fornell assured him. "In fact things have been moving pretty fast and I wanted to bring you up to speed personally." He paused to take a sip of his coffee and then continued, "First off, I don't think we're going to be able to prosecute Gallo."
"What!" Tony and McGee shouted in unison whilst Gibbs glared murderously at his friend and even Ducky looked ready to cause some damage.
"We got him bang to rights!" Tony said angrily. "What could be more clear-cut than a taped conversation where he confesses to murder and attempted murder... Um, we do have him on tape, right? Your techs didn't screw up did they?"
"Calm down and hear me out, okay?" Fornell urged. "There's no screw ups, just a psych evaluation that says Gallo's not fit to stand trial. Seems he's got psychological problems up the wazoo - he's paranoid, aggressive, antisocial, emotionally unstable, self-absorbed – you name it. Even his attack on you was apparently a textbook case of something called narcissistic rage." He paused and looked pained. "I'm afraid you've replaced Buchetta and your father as the focus of his revenge fantasies."
This was Fornell's idea of 'nothing bad'? Tony shivered involuntarily and thought back to when he'd walked into Gallo's study and seen his own death in the man's cold eyes. "Well, I guess we all knew that was gonna happen," he said, trying to sound sanguine.
"Hey, between the recordings we got from your wire and the information on the flash drive, he'll be too busy rotting in a padded cell to be any threat to you," Fornell assured him.
"You been holding out on us, Tobias?" Gibbs growled, pinning his friend with an accusing stare. "I thought you said the searches at Senior's properties were a bust, yet now you suddenly have the damned flash drive?"
"Why do you always assume we're not playing fair?" Fornell asked, giving a put-upon sigh. "As it happens, we've only had the thing a few days and we really can't claim any credit for its discovery because one of Buchetta's men just walked in off the street and offered it to us."
"You're kidding!" McGee blurted out in surprise.
"Nope. He wanted our protection and knew we'd want something from him in return," Fornell replied. "To be honest, I don't blame the guy. He's Enzo Pera, one of Buchetta's original inner cadre of seven and as of last Tuesday when Pauli Santini was pulled out of the Hudson, he's the only one left. If you factor in all the casualties of this turf war, the body count stands at fifteen so far and most of them worked for Buchetta."
"Did he say how he got hold of the flash drive?" Gibbs asked.
"He was in charge of digging the dirt on Gallo and made both copies himself," Fornell explained. "He gave one to Buchetta and kept the other as a backup."
"So, I was right," Tony murmured quietly. "Old Carmine did manipulate Gallo into killing my dad."
"Almost certainly," Fornell agreed giving Tony a sympathetic smile. "At least he didn't succeed where the boy was concerned," he added when he saw a quick flash of pain in the younger man's eyes.
Tony gave a nod of acknowledgement, but otherwise looked lost in thought.
"So what happens now?" Gibbs asked, deciding to move the conversation along.
"Well the good news is, there seems to be pretty universal agreement that everyone's better off with Gallo out of the picture," Fornell said with satisfaction. "Even his own men seem far more interested in grabbing what they can for themselves, rather than trying to secure his release and it looks like Director Vance read the situation right because they don't seem to have any interest in pursuing Gallo's personal vendettas."
"Twas ever thus," Ducky commented. "These tinpot Hitlers should realise that ruling their little empires through fear and intimidation never bodes well for them if the tables are turned."
"So you think it's safe to break cover?" Tony asked, immediately perking up at the idea of going home.
"I'd suggest leaving it a few more days to be on the safe side," Fornell advised. "The information on that flash drive's been a godsend and we've managed to identify the main players and their business dealings, so we'll put out a few feelers to see what happens." He grinned and added, "Even with what we've got so far, we could be looking at the biggest blow to organised crime since the Five Families trials in the eighties!"
Gibbs shot a questioning glance over at McGee. "Is that doable?" he asked.
"Um, uh, sure...I guess so," McGee stuttered, momentarily taken by surprise. He took a breath and looked over to where Tony was eyeing him suspiciously. " Ziva's been working on a low key security plan for when you get back, just to cover all bases," he explained. "She's just ironing out the last few issues and I'm sure we can get everything sorted by next weekend."
"Good," Gibbs said with satisfaction. "If we don't hear of any adverse chatter or activity this week, we'll head home."
Tony felt his heart lift at the words and he enjoyed the sensation for a couple of seconds before a sudden thought struck him: How was Davey going to react to having to leave his 'Grampa' Jack behind?
In the week following Fornell's visit, the FBI agents monitoring Gallo and Buchetta's former organisations focussed on discovering whether there was any indication of an active threat to Tony and Davey. When nothing even pinged their radar by Friday, the go ahead was given for their return to DC.
As expected, Davey was upset when he heard Grampa would be staying in Stillwater, but the promise of a visit very soon and Jack's assurances that he'd get a Skype account sorted as soon as possible soon had the little boy smiling again.
Late the next evening, Gibbs was finally able to pull his car into his own driveway for the first time in weeks and even though they were greeted by dreary skies and heavy rain, he couldn't help letting out a heartfelt sigh of contentment.
"It's good to be home, huh?" Tony observed wistfully from the seat beside him.
Gibbs turned to face the younger man, sensing his melancholy mood. "It's your home too, yours and Davey's for as long as you want to stay."
"Yeah, I know," Tony replied, managing to conjure up a weak smile. "Ignore me, I'm just feeling sorry for myself."
"This once, I think you're entitled. It's been a helluva few weeks."
"Yeah, but you know what?" Tony asked glancing over his shoulder to where Davey was fast asleep in his car seat. "The pay-off was totally worth it!"
Gibbs couldn't help smiling in response to the huge grin on Tony's face and he allowed himself a second to marvel at the younger man's ability to bounce back from practically anything. "DiNozzo, it doesn't happen often, but when you're right, you're right," he conceded.
"Now that's more like the Boss I know and love!" Tony quipped as he started to laugh quietly.
Gibbs rolled his eyes and then reached over to give Tony a quick clip on the back of the head. "You'd better believe it. Now stop lollygagging and let's get inside."
"Oh, Boss, I think we got you out of Stillwater just in time," Tony joked. " Another week and you'd've been rocking away there on your dad's porch, smoking a corncob pipe."
When Gibbs scowled and raised his hand to deliver another swat, Tony dodged sideways and managed to open the car door and make a hasty exit just as Abby emerged from the front door, quickly followed by McGee. Ziva appeared from around the side of the house just long enough to acknowledge their presence with a smile and a nod and then returned to her post in the backyard.
"You're here! You're here!" Abby carolled practically bouncing down the steps to greet him. "Where's my favourite munchkin?"
"Dead to the world," Gibbs replied as he got out of the car and went around to release Davey from his car seat. As he settled the child comfortably against his shoulder he called to McGee, "Grab the bags from the trunk. Tony's still on light duties."
As they entered the house there was a smell of fresh paint but Tony couldn't see any changes to the décor. "What's been going on?" he asked.
"Just a little redecorating," Gibbs said dismissively as he headed straight up the stairs. "Abby's Habitat for Humanity project's still stalled and she asked her team if they'd help out here." He stopped momentarily when they reached what had once been Kelly's room and then pushed the door open.
"Oh, wow!" Tony breathed in awe as he took in the transformation of the room that had always been used for storage in the time he'd known Gibbs: Now it was a little boy's bedroom complete with hand crafted furniture, brightly coloured curtains, a plush blue carpet and an amazing mural painted on one of the walls depicting all of Davey's favourite cartoon characters.
"Do you think he'll like it?" Abby asked anxiously. "My friend, Julian, wanted to do a pirate room and I thought it'd be great, but you said no black and skulls and stuff so I had to nix the idea."
"He's gonna love it, Abs," Tony assured her, giving her a kiss on the cheek. "And I promise I'll let you give him a pirate room when he's older, okay?"
Abby beamed and gave him an enthusiastic hug. "I'll hold you to that and I'm sure Davey'll love it once we introduce him to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise!"
Gibbs made short work of getting Davey into his 'snugglies' and had to hide a fond smile when he noticed how attentive Tony was to the whole process; no doubt trying to pick up a few tips for when his arm was out of its cast and he'd have a chance to do it himself.
They took it in turns for goodnight kisses but Davey hardly stirred and with a mumbled, "Night, Daddy. Night, Boss," he snuggled closer into his pillow and fell back to sleep.
"I think he's down for the count, Abs," Tony said apologetically as he placed the framed photo of Davey and his Maria on the night-stand so the little boy would be able to see it when he woke up in the morning. "It's been a long day."
"Hey, I knew you'd all be too tired for any fuss and now that you're home for good I don't mind. I'll just start spoiling him tomorrow instead," she assured him as they they backed out of the room and headed down the stairs. "Ducky and Jimmy are coming and we've got welcome home presents and everything!"
"Welcome home presents?" Tony asked eagerly even as he collapsed onto Gibbs' old sofa. "Do we all get some?"
"Well as a matter of fact, I've got something for you," McGee announced looking a little self-conscious.
"A good something or a bad something?" Tony asked, eyeing the laptop his partner placed next to him as if it might contain a bomb.
"Definitely a good something," McGee assured him, taking a minute to log-on and find what he wanted before turning the computer so they could all see. "All you have to do is press enter."
Tony gave McGee a suspicious look. "It's not that YouTube clip of the fat cat playing a keyboard is it?"
"Not even close," McGee chuckled, reaching over to press the button himself.
The footage that appeared on the screen had no sound and the camera angle was a little awkward but Tony was soon watching with rapt attention as the confrontation between Ron Sacks and his team-mates unfolded before his eyes. When it came to the part where McGee threw his beautifully timed left hook to deck Sacks, he couldn't contain his delight any longer and he pulled the younger man towards him, planting a big kiss on his forehead.
"Aw, Probie, you do love me!" he said gleefully. "How did you get your hands on this?"
"I had some time to kill the day you were released from the hospital," McGee explained looking a little stunned at Tony's response. "They let me access the security system from the nurses' station and I downloaded all the footage from the camera by the elevator onto a flash drive. Once we got back to DC, I found the right time stamp and captured the part we wanted."
"So you could get me a screen-cap of when your fist connects with Sack's nose?" Tony asked eagerly. "It'd make a great screen saver!"
"Absolutely not!" McGee replied, going from looking smug to horrified in a split second. "This is for your eyes only!"
"Aw c'mon. You mean I can't even post it on YouTube?" Tony complained with an exaggerated pout. "I bet it'd get more hits than that stupid cat."
"It shows me assaulting a Federal agent, Tony. If it ever got out, I could lose my job."
"Yeah, Tony. Don't be mean to Timmy," Abby protested teasingly, punching him on the arm.
"You need to take a chill pill, Timmy. I wouldn't do that to you," Tony replied making a big deal of rubbing his arm. "I do want an eight-by-ten glossy though."
When McGee gave a reluctant nod, the others started to laugh and Tony settled back into the worn old sofa and relaxed. He loved these people with a passion that didn't depend on shared blood and he knew that Davey would grow up in the loving family he'd personally never experienced. As he glanced over to where Gibbs was sitting, he recognised a similar expression on the older man's face and they shared a knowing look.
Life was good.
A/N Please PM me if you spot any errors I've missed. Many thanks, Karen :)